If approved, state would reimburse up to 65% of costs to town

CUMBERLAND – A collaborative effort by the School Committee and Town Council, along with state Sen. Ryan Pearson, could result in up to $83 million worth of renovations and improvements to school buildings with the town being responsible for just 35% of the total cost.

The State of Rhode Island is advocating for a statewide bond which would provide cities and towns additional funds for school repairs. The bond includes incentives that could boost Cumberland’s state reimbursement rate for school construction from the 45% reimbursement rate in fiscal 2019 to approximately 65% of the $83 million.  With the 65% reimbursement, Cumberland taxpayers would be responsible for $29 million of the $83 million worth of renovations and improvements.

“This is a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity for Cumberland and really is a win-win for our entire community,” said School Committee Chair Raymond Salvatore. “Fixing our schools, addressing facility issues that should have been addressed years ago, is a major priority for us and we’ve been limited by funding. While the town has made significant progress in recent years, this measure will allow us to finally address remaining items in our schools.”

If approved at the state and local levels, all schools in the district would see significant upgrades, transforming them into true 21st-century learning environments.

Additional areas of focus include: remodeling classrooms and labs for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) instruction, safety and security upgrades in every school, renovations to kindergarten classrooms across the district, additions to cafeterias to decrease overcrowding, structural repairs, and upgrades to conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), among others.

Earlier this month, the Cumberland Town Council unanimously passed a resolution to support an $83 million bond referendum for school construction. The state is expected to put the renovation projects on the November ballots this fall.

“School Committee fiscal chair Paul DiModica and Town Council finance chair Lisa Beaulieu deserve a lot of credit for the behind the scenes work they did to insure that our community is eligible for state aid,” said Superintendent Robert Mitchell. “They and the school department leadership team, our school committee and town council collaborated and made this happen.”

The bonds will be put before residents this November. School and town officials are urging residents to vote ‘yes’ on both the State of RI bond for school improvements, as well as the local question on bonds for Cumberland schools.

“Fixing our schools across the state has been a priority of mine for several years, since I chaired a Senate task force that recommended the actions we are now taking to address a lack of investment for decades that shortchanged our students and teachers.” said Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln)

The initial list of proposed improvements for this multi-year project was created in collaboration with Torrado Architects of Providence, RI and includes projects identified in the State of Rhode Island’s “Jacobs Report.” The final list of projects and Cumberland’s actual reimbursement rate will depend on voter approval of the state and local bonds, as well as approval from the RI Department of Education (RIDE).

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